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“Once in a Blue Moon”

Didcot Railway Centre
Ranked #1 of 11 things to do in Didcot
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Didcot Railway Centre is a living history museum of the Great Western Railway set in 22 acres alongside Didcot Parkway Station. From Brunel's Broad Gauge to the modern trains running past, Didcot Railway Centre's unique collection of buildings, locomotives, carriages, wagons and other artefacts shows how the Great Western Railway developed to be the premier railway company of the 1940s.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Activities for young children
Fareham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
343 reviews
188 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 96 helpful votes
“Once in a Blue Moon”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 April 2014

One of the best days out at a railway centre ever. Three iconic locomotives working together. Everything really well organised and run smoothly. Being able to get up close to these giants of steam is fantastic.

Visited April 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank RobertFGCarter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ann M, Commercial Manager at Didcot Railway Centre, responded to this review, 8 April 2014
Thank you for taking the time to give us feedback. We're so pleased you enjoyed the weekend. It was a lot of work to set up so it's great to hear it was all worthwhile. We pride ourselves on letting our visitors get up close and personal with our wonderful locomotives.

Our next enthusiasts' event will be our Steam Gala on 3, 4 and 5 May when we will have Metropolitan Railway E Class 0-4-4T No.1 visiting. We are daily until 21 April and next have the trains running on our Easter Family Fundays from 18 to 21 April.
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English first
Fleet, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Special 'Once in a Blue Moon' event”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 April 2014 via mobile

Have visited Didcot before and, after seeing publicity about the event with 3 major engines in special livery in steam, we decided to return. What a shock! The website said 'Special prices apply' so noting the usual costs for a family for their Thomas event and the steam gala (£43) we made the assumption this event would be roughly the same. NO! £60 for a family - more if you had 3 children. During the ten minutes or so we discussed it I saw at least 3 families walk up, observe the entry price, discuss and walk away again. We also walked. £40 I would have paid, but £60 was either misjudged, cynical profiteering, or a deliberate attempt to exclude families. I have been to numerous railways and events and we are a family of steam fans. This was not good value for money.

Helpful?
1 Thank pbea3375
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ann M, Commercial Manager at Didcot Railway Centre, responded to this review, 8 April 2014
Thank you for taking the time to give us feedback. Once in a Blue Moon was a one-off premium event which cost a significant amount to stage. We had to cover the cost of hiring the locomotives and moving them to Didcot, as well as the coal and water they consumed. We published the admission prices on the Gala Events page of our website and also offered slight reductions (although a booking fee was payable) for booking in advance. We are an independent museum and do not receive any public funding so we plough the profit we make from open days into the conservation and restoration of our wonderful collections of locomotives, carriages and other Great Western Railway artefacts. In setting our prices for this event we did research the cost of day visits to other attractions and felt that we charged competitive prices for a full day out (we were open from 9 am to 5pm). As with all our open days and galas, our admission price included all the train rides and other entertainments.

We are next running the trains for our Easter Family Fundays from 18 to 21 April when we will have a variety of children's entertainments, including an Easter Egg Treasure Hunt. Again, once visitors pay the admission price there are no extra charges for the train rides, competitions or entertainments.
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London
Level Contributor
489 reviews
129 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 246 helpful votes
“An enjoyable day out”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 March 2014

Our smallest boy (age 4) loves trains, and so we decided to visit Didcot Railway on the recent 'Day out with Thomas' weekend. It is about an hour's drive from West London and so highly manageable for a day out. We packed a picnic and wellie boots, and umbrellas (for inclement weather).

The car park is quite a walk from the entrance and involves going up and down an overpass over the railway (somewhat difficult with a buggy and the picnic!). However, on reaching the railway station, there are friendly teenagers / young men who are extremely polite and welcoming (we were impressed!). This was a good start.

You can ride on a couple of steam trains.. Thomas (of course) and Duck. There was a Punch & Judy show and some entertainers with props that the older children (aged 11-13) had fun with (spinning plates, upside down cups for stilts etc) and a balloon man (queue was too long... ), and the engine shed.

There was some food and drink to buy (again queues) if you don't bring a picnic, and you should bring a picnic blanket to sit on, as there were not many formal places to sit down.

Thoroughly enjoyable and well done to all the volunteers who give up their time to let people know about the beautiful age of steam.

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank LondonFamily88
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ann M, Commercial Manager at Didcot Railway Centre, responded to this review, 31 March 2014
Thank you for taking the time to give us such comprehensive feedback. If we could have one wish we would wish for our own car parking! At weekends there is a car park opposite Didcot Parkway Station that avoids the first two sets of steps but we can't advertise that for everyday opening as Didcot Parkway is a commuter station and it fills up very quickly during the week.

We're pleased our younger volunteers gave such a good impression. I have passed your comments on to them and thanked them again for their efforts.

Our Days Out With Thomas events are busy and we do tend to get queues at busy times so this year we set up a second retail outlet near our Picnic Area to try and cut down on the worst of the queues. We're pleased you enjoyed our entertainers. Again the balloon queues tend to be long and we are going to try something slightly different at our next Days Out With Thomas event in October to try and alleviate this.

Thomas, Duck and Diesel were very busy all weekend pulling the trains. and all the train rides and entertainments are included in the admission price. Thomas and his Friends next visit us on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th October. There is no need to book - come along on the day.
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Kettering, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
38 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Interesting railway museum”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 March 2014

Visited on Sunday afternoon a few days ago on a non steaming day. Arriving by car, you have to park at Didcot Parkway station car park (£3.70 at weekends) then walk through the ticket barriers at the station and along a pedestrian tunnel to reach the site. Very few visitors about, but the engine and carriage sheds were all open. Staff were friendly and helpful and they do a good cooked lunch in the restaurant. They have an extensive collection of mostly ex Great Western steam locomotives plus some interesting carriages. There's also a recreated section of 'Broad Gauge' railway together with replica locos and carriages. Most exhibits, particularly the steam locos have small interpretation plaques beside them. The only thing I found disappointing was that most of the steam locos appear to be 'out of ticket' which means they are waiting to be overhauled and can't be steamed at present. All in all, a pleasant site to visit, but then I am a railway enthusiast!

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
Thank Tim S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ann M, Commercial Manager at Didcot Railway Centre, responded to this review, 27 March 2014
Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately we don't have our own car parking so our visitors must use the public car parks. At weekends, there is often slightly cheaper parking behind Julian's Garage opposite Didcot Parkway Station but this is not available during the week.

It's great to hear that our volunteers and staff were friendly and helpful when you visited, and that the food was good. Thank you. We encourage our visitors to explore the whole Centre and there are only a few workshop areas that are not accessible for safety reasons.

Like other living history museums, we would love to have all our exhibits restored and usable all the time but the economics of steam locomotive restoration mitigate against this. Our working steam locomotives can only operate with a valid boiler certificate, which gives them about 10 years of working life before they need to be stripped down and examined. Given the resources (financial and volunteers) involved in rebuilding a steam locomotive, we can only justify having a limited number of locomotives in our running fleet. However, we have recently started a programme to conserve and display our non-operational fleet. We have published the policy on our website - under the Getting Involved tab on our Home Page.
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London UK
Level Contributor
88 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 110 helpful votes
“What a complete waste of time and money!!!”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 22 March 2014

I tried to call ahead of our visit with my 3 year old grandson but just got a recorded message that told me they could not answer the telephone. It was a lovely bright sunny Saturday afternoon in late March and we thought it would be fun for my grandson to see some working steam trains. 30 minutes later and after paying car parking we approached the booking office. We asked the grey haired man inside what was going on at the centre today and got the brusque reply " Not much". On inquiring why no trains were running we told that coal was very expensive but then so is the entry price.

It would have cost £25 for the 5 of us to gain entry so only my grandson and his father went in for £9. What a disappointment. Most of the trains were closed with signs that said no climbing. A walk in an oily shed where they were doing rebuilding and a carriage full of underwhelming children's toys.

Perhaps on the special days, when it costs even more, it is a nice day out if hordes of people are what you crave, but other than that do NOT waste your time and money. There are better things to do that cost much less

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
Thank ExplorerLondonUK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ann M, Commercial Manager at Didcot Railway Centre, responded to this review, 24 March 2014
Thank you for your feedback. We try and make it clear in our publicity when we are running the trains and suggest visitors check our website in advance of their visit. We would love to run the trains every day we are open but steam trains are expensive to operate and we don't have enough volunteers to cover the turns.

We do try and staff the phone at weekends but the staff on duty cover for colleagues' lunch and comfort breaks so there may be times when it is not answered. However, we will review the answering machine message and see if we can make it a bit clearer.

Our Open Days (when we are not running the trains) are an opportunity for visitors to explore Didcot Railway Centre at leisure. Following our Archie Trail will guide visitors around the Centre to see our 1930s Branch Line scene and Victorian Transfer Shed with its recreation of Brunel's Broad Gauge railway. The leaflet that we usually give to visitors suggests 10 Things To Do for both adults and families, including spotting the dalek in our Museum.

Our Engine Shed is a working Shed and is dirty and oily. We ask visitors not to climb on the engines for safety reasons but we do have steps up to the footplates of a couple so visitors can climb into the cab and see the controls (another of the 10 Things To Do). We have some of our carriages on display, although for security reasons we cannot leave them open. We have a large picnic area where visitors can watch the trains go past on the main railway line even when our own trains aren't running. As well as the toys, our Science Learning & Railways Exhibition has interactive exhibits for older children which show how steam engines work.

Didcot Railway Centre is open every weekend. On Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th we have a major event with three mainline engines (King Edward II, Sir Nigel Gresley and Tornado) in blue livery - this is a premium event. Our next 'normal' steam days are at Easter when we will have children's entertainment and an Easter Egg Treasure Hunt as well as rides in genuine vintage carriages behind steam engines.
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